Malaria transmission high in infected children, scientists say

Written By: Hunja Macharia


Children with malaria emit specific odour that attracts more malaria mosquitoes a study by researchers various institutions across the world has revealed.

Malaria parasites in children with the disease enhance the production of specific smells that are emitted through the skin.

These odours attract additional malaria mosquitoes, increasing the risk of these children being bitten by the vectors.

These findings, published in the authoritative PNAS journal, are the result of a study led by researchers from Wageningen University & Research in collaboration with: the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe), Kenya; London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine andCardiff University, both in the UK; and Radboud University Nijmegen, Netherlands.

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International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) Dr Dan Masiga says, “Our study advances earlier research that showed that children carrying the malaria parasite, Plasmodium, are more attractive to malaria mosquitoes than their healthy counterparts. We aimed to identify the mechanisms of this increased attraction,”

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The research shows that the amount of some specific odour compounds in children infected with malaria is much higher than in malaria-free children.

The researchers precisely determined the nature and concentrations of these compounds, and foundheptanal, octanal and nonanal, which are known as aldehydes in chemistry, to be emitted at higher levels by children with malaria.

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Researcher Jetske de Boer says, “Although fairly common, Aldehydes which are described as fruity or grassyare very attractive to malaria mosquitoes, the proportion of aldehydes appears to increase from about 15% of the total odour bouquet to almost 23%.”

“Furthermore, the higher the density of parasites in the blood, the more the three aldehydes are emitted.” He adds.

“We found that children with malaria are about two times more attractive to malaria mosquitoes than their malaria-free counterparts. We also investigated further to determine whether body odour is responsible for the increased attraction.” Said Annette Busula, a former icipe PhD scholar.

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We concluded that Plasmodium parasites manipulate body odours of malaria-infected humans, increasing their attractiveness to malaria vectors.

The recent findings provide opportunities to combat malaria, by creating opportunities to intervene in the diseases transmission chain.

For example, the knowledge can be used to improve odour-baited mosquito traps using the identified attractants.

Moreover, the compounds can serve as biomarkers to develop faster and more child-friendly diagnostic tools that will not require blood samples.




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